Thursday, February 3, 2011

Holy or Whole?

Do people who lead their lives according to the Bible, in a holy manner, experience higher levels of psychological health? Or can people have NO faith in God and still be psychologically whole? In their book A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal Modern Psychotherapies (click here for the book), Jones and Butman briefly discussed the topic of wholeness and holiness. More precisely, they said that often secular Psychology purposes to help people become better adjusted and more functional rather than live according to the commands of Christ as one expects a believer to do. More often than not, living according to Christ's commandments will often include suffering and self-sacrifice and those are not very common among secular psychologists. Also, one may wonder if living as Christ commands to live will be enough for us to be psychologically whole. Jones and Butman offer the example of a saint from a local church who follows God and applies himself to holiness but undergoes great emotional turmoil and lacks meaningful relationships. On the other hand one may find individuals who have a great state of emotional, mental, physical and relational health and functionality but declare themselves to be atheists.

So far in our class, one of the main questions we have attempted to answer was related to health and functionality. And in our discussions we realized that it is rather difficult to answer what looks like. As Christians we often rush to claim that the Bible has all the answers to mental health, however one can see that people who don't believe the Bible experience mental health and people who believe the Bible and live accordingly experience psychological dysfunction.

As uncomfortable as it might be, I am willing to accept that there are many people who don't know God who are capable of reaching psychological wholeness and can do so without the knowledge of God or the Bible. And also I am willing to admit that there are many people who know the Bible, know God and still struggle emotionally and relationally, sometimes worse than people who don't know God. Ultimately, I believe that God calls us to both holiness and wholeness, and there might be some overlap between the two but I would not be confident in saying that they are the same.


  1. As I read your post, John the Baptist is popping into my head. I wonder what a modern day John would look like and if the modern equivilent of his living in the wilderness, wearing clothes of camel hair, and eating wild locust and honey would qualify as functional and whole in the modern psycholgist's mind. I believe that at best his wholeness would be debatable, yet Jesus said, "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist."

  2. So what is a whole person Dorin? Isn't it really a question of what you deem valuable? Certainly there are atheist who are better adjusted members of society than some Christians, but your description does not fit my idea of a Christian. After all, we are told to go and make disciples so your Christian should have meaningful relationships. Your Christian might fall short of the well adjusted ideal because each of us should seek not only our own interests but also the interests of others so this could keep the Christian from reaching his full potential by the world's standards. We live in a fallen world where holiness can lead to hardship, but the problem is sin, not holiness.

  3. Kalib, thank you for the post. Yes you are indeed right, John the Baptist seems to be an interesting example and I doubt that he would pass today's "wholeness" test according to many of the contemporary psychological systems. He could be deemed as quiet of an odd fellow even for that culture and age, I doubt that his behavior was common even among those people. You look at what Jesus said about him, and indeed you could at least see a great sense of respect for his cousin. Now I wonder, what did Jesus mean by the statement he made about John the Baptist?! I haven't studied theology in as much depth as you have, so if you have any insight into that, it would be much appreciated!

  4. Jackie, thank you for your post as well and honestly I don't know how to answer your question in a comprehensive way. I too am wrestling to understand what exactly constitutes a whole person. As far as Christians falling short to reach their full potential because they might be more focused on others...well, according to Adler, one characteristic of a highly functional individual is his or her display of social I guess there are even secular systems of Psychology that might value act of reaching out.
    I agree with you that the problem is sin and not holiness. Indeed sin as an act and sin as a state, but I wonder if the mere pursuit of holiness would be enough for attaining wholeness. What do you think?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.